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Showing Your Colors: The Start

With the start of a new campaign, I am thinking I would like to try and keep a log of the adventure.

A note called for the group to meet here just after noon, in this nondescript room on the second floor of Courvana. A shrouded trio welcomes them, invites them to take a seat, and then runs down a series of questions about their newly formed team. They describe having met to form a group recently, finding each other through an ad posted on the intra-school bulletin board by Ariel, Aasimar warlock. The interview concludes with the three questioners slumping in their seats, heads dropping to reveal that they were wooden puppets and after a moment for Ariel, Leon, Rila, and Tormenoth to get their bearings, a path of the stone wall slides open. Attempting to exit the doors they came in saw stone columns slide from the ceiling to prevent the doors from being opened, nearly crushing Leon the human cleric’s foot, but quickly receding again once no one was near them.

Tormenoth

Fire beetles surge out of the opening, but are held off by maintained druid fire and the teamwork of cleric and fighter while Ariel searches the room for clues. Paintings of old alumni and cabinetry turn out to be cheap fakes, but tearing down one painting reveals a secret passage. As the tide of bugs temporarily slows, Leon and Rila move forward to investigate while Ariel and Tormenoth go through the secret passage. The beetles are being continuously summoned in a square room with a blank stone cube, but after being surrounded, Leon and Rila push through to the next room and barricade the doors behind them. At the same time, Ariel finds a crossbow trap aiming towards the only other exit from this room and disables it with a quick blast of eldritch magic. Tormenoth, the half-elven fighter, isn’t long behind her and loots books from the bookcase covering the secret door and some mason’s tools from a small workbench. Rounding the corner, they find a corpse of a man with a crossbow bolt protruding from his chest before they continue on to join back up with Leon and Rila. While beetles had been trying to show their way into the room, Rila, a halfling druid, had attempted to open a chest sitting beneath a stone lion statue. It animated to attack her but was dispatch by the full might of the adventurer’s before it could do much harm, and then its broken form was used to shore up the door barricade after a couple beetles had gotten through. In its guarded chest she found some healing items but also a large bronze key that wouldn’t fit any of the normal doorways in the rooms so far.

Rila

Now two doors presented the way forwards. One path was a black, muddy, L-shaped corridor that would quickly turn anything it touched black with wicking ink while the other a straight room with a floor of smouldering coals. While the warlock, druid, and fighter attempted to use a ladder and log in the mud room to cross safely, ultimately Ariel and Rila ended up falling in, with Tormenoth saving the application once but seeing it touch the mud just out of reach when Ariel fell during the second attempt. The cleric attempted the coal hallway and was stopped momentarily by a stuck door that he shouldered open to escape the stifling room.

Ariel

Together again in the last room, the group found a final puzzle involving a cart-and-pulley system to deliver their application to a waiting attendant. The trick would see the cart have to go past a shower of bleach, which would remove any ink or color. With their original application fully black from touching the inky mud, they sent it through once to bleach it, then forged a new application using legalese from some of the looted books. To remove the threat of the bleach, they found a note about fire-beetle glow-fluid being acidic in nature, ideal for counteracting the basic nature of the bleach. With a small flourish, the attendant accepted their application and revealed a secret door leading out into a hallway.

A peel of laughter erupts from the gathered students as half of this four person adventuring team is ink black from head to toe, but a proctor points them to a posted list of the other teams that also passed the preliminary application. At the same time, an elven bard saunters out of the crowd holding a wrinkled and half-crumpled advertisement asking if the team is still looking for members. The proctor notes that having passed the preliminary, the team is free to hire or fire whoever they’d like, just as they could do as a regular adventuring group.

Leon

After reorienting themselves, finding they are on the first floor of a different wing of the building than where they entered, the group decides to meet in private to discuss their plans. Ariel’s dormitory room is discovered to have been snuck into and some of her decorations tampered with. Suspecting a bug, the group decides to meet on the campus green spaces, using tree cover and bardic music to frustrate any attempts by others to listen in.

Altreyo

First target is decided, they are going to hit up the library to find what they can about past competitions. The librarian at the front desk is aloof and prefers to read her book, but she points the direction to the Showing of Colors section, but notes that each team can only check out one book at a time. Upon arrival, the group finds that the section has been laid bare, all the books but the ones regarding the first competition are gone, and all those except for the ones from at least twelve years ago. Altreyo, the newly joined member, doesn’t take no for an answer and decides to linger in the back to unlock the return slot employee’s only room. The rest of the group tries to distract the librarian or chat her up for aid, but Ariel’s attempts go the worst and she is asked to leave. Leon checks out the Red Daring book from 12 years ago too. They provides enough distraction that the bard sneaks in and nabs a book about the 1st, 3rd, and 5th competitions from some crates before they were completely sealed shut with anti-tamper tags. They take these books with them while they recuperate and they learn that the Red Daring from six years ago was designed by Einn Casterly and that the Red Daring is always a dungeon designed by famous dungeon architects for this competition.

The second target has the group heading off to Dean “Zap” Astor, a favorite professor of Tormenoth’s, and one who they hope to get advice on dungeoneering tactics or Red Daring history. While waiting outside his office for him to return, they have a chance meeting with the Blood Fists, an aggressive team, who are stopping to see their advisor. The bard’s casual insults nearly starts a confrontation with the group but it only results in a half-orc fist through a wall. Luckily, the hole in the wall allows them to overhear their talk with their advisor, who suggests they get either Einn Casterly, a Steinreich School of Mining professor, or Styx, a reclusive Page and Wisdom professor, to identify the bronze key they found in the preliminaries. Zap provides helpful information, noting that the best path to victory in past Red Daring trials is in the name, they expect daring, out of the box thinking or taking risks. Their dungeons always follow a theme of some sort, usually the trademark of whoever the designer is for that year, so the group’s best bet to figure it out is to find the designer for this year.

The third and final of their initial targets sees them scouting for the available jobs in the cities connected to some of the five schools. What draws their attention the most is Blacksand Arena. Its challenge for this week is the Blind Manticore and they decide to watch a round. Altreyo takes a bet with a bookie after hearing the Blood Fists are competing, but ends up losing his money when the Blood Fists end up pulling a victory out. The Blind Manticore Challenge, the announcer booms, involves the entrants surviving to cross the arena while a blindfolded manticore, given enhanced hearing and smell, attempts to stop them. The adventuring group, having taken to calling themselves the Dissonant Whispers, head down to sign up too. It turns out that, having seen one version of the challenge, they are to be subjected to a slight variation, they have to retrieve a bell from the other end and return to the doors they enter in. The group, if they succeed, will win a portion of the bets placed before and during their match.

Luckily or unluckily, they are the first group up and the doors open to reveal a different layout of stone and wooden walls than they saw before. Radial walls of stone break up the direct paths of movement while offering little cover from the manticore perched at the top of a central pillar. A few other pillars are scattered around, with the most important one at the other end holding a bell. The group splits up quickly, finding what cover they can while avoiding spines. Their defensive positioning quickly puts them in the center of the arena with little damage to show for it, when the manticore flaps its wings to move to protect the bell-bearing pillar. A clever use of magic by Leon distracts the manticore with sounds of a second manticore moving and growling before Altreyo takes up the vacated central pillar to play popular music in the hopes of energizing the crowd into more betting. Rila harasses the manticore with minor spells, avoiding serious damage to avoid disqualifying her team, while Tormenoth guards Ariel whose unseen servant sneaks over to invisibly retrieve the bell. When handing it over to Tormenoth, the simple construct fumbles the bell, alerting the manticore to their ruse and it takes flight again. As it leaves the ground this time though, its form shimmers and becomes invisible. “The manticore isn’t the only one working blind here in the Blind Manticore Challenge!”, the announcer rumbles. It slams down to claw and bite at Altreyo and Leon around the central pillar before it is forced to move to try and block Tormenoth’s mad sprint for the exit with the bell. The Dissonant Whispers is peppered with more tail spines on their retreat back to the exit, with Ariel taking a hit that knocked her prone, but it wasn’t enough to stop them from claiming their prize.

On leaving the arena, they notice that another of the entrants is also competing in the Showing of Colors. The Huntresses are an all female team. Altreyo inartfully hits on the group, but the interaction is saved by Rila, who recognizes one of their number as a fellow new student from Page and Wisdom. Rila gives their group a bit of helpful advice about the Manticore Challenge before the Whispers go to collect their hefty winnings.

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